Time Wasted

Annelise Krieske

Time is of such value and is so fastly fleeting. To waste it on painstakingly stressful busy work while suppressing passions is truly disgusting in my opinion. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.” We are told to try new things, to branch out, to think about our future, to plan for college and so on and so forth, none of which can be done without the precious commodities of time and mental energy, which are ever being wasted by meaningless and anxiety ridden tasks.

Every student has complained about homework. Whether it is because it is too difficult, it is too much, or it hasn’t been covered in class; it has always been fought by students.  Because of this cliche it becomes difficult to take any complaints seriously.  However, I am not trying to stultify homework. It is indeed important, and I can recognize that. It helps keep students involved in their studies, which I believe is especially important at ACA, where classes only meet every other day. But how much is too much? I personally don’t think spending six hours on a subject you will never think of again past high school is a good use of time. It’s quite repulsive really. Especially when, in response, the one supervising said homework says, “Oh! You should never spend six hours on homework!” when that’s the only option.

As students of the public education system, we are expected to do our homework and turn it in, no questions asked. Sure, there are the occasional kindhearted teachers who will listen and understand if something prevented you from doing your homework, but the majority count anything you say as an excuse, and only give you grief. This is why I was appalled to hear “oh well you shouldn’t spend that long on homework.” because that’s what I’ve been taught to do. Assignments are given, students do them in the allotted time, then turn them in for a grade. The end. The directions are “do the thing by the date” not “complete this in the time allotted, but if you have something going on in your life you may take a break. Don’t forget to get some fresh air!” Staying happy and healthy isn’t really part of the equation.

There is a stockpile of misconceptions behind the assigning of excess homework. Most would say that repetition creates a better understanding of a subject, and while it may help a little, according to the US Department of Education (DOE), it only takes 5-7 algebraic equations to demonstrate an understanding of a mathematical process. It is also often believed that more homework means more learning, so students will become smarter academically, but there is no research to prove this. Yes, some benefits can be seen from homework, but only in moderation. Studies show there is often a negative correlation between excessive homework and test scores. In this survey  (see graph below) it shows plainly that these particular students’ test scores went up the LESS time was spent per day working on schoolwork at home.

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Homework can benefit a person’s time management practice, as we do live in the age of attempted multitasking. Because we live in this era of social media and distracting smartphones, it becomes easy to attribute lack of time to poor time management and the distraction of the student in question, but if you really think a student would waste hours on their phone, have an anxiety attack and feel awful, and then WILLINGLY repeat that… Then I don’t think I can help you there.

I created a poll for the students of ACA, which I kept open for 2 weeks, the results of which were saddening and enraging to say the least. With an average of 22 responses per survey question, Sixty percent of students polled get between 2 and 6 hours of sleep (61 percent said they were sleep deprived) when teenagers should be getting between 9 to 91/2 hours to keep a healthy sleep schedule (Nationwide Children’s). *Sleep deprivation in adolescence has been shown to increase the likeliness of them engaging in risk taking behavior, like drinking. How sad that school is increasing the number of at risk students by decreasing their sleep. The data from my poll that hit me the hardest were from the questions “Do you feel like you get enough personal time, or time spent with family, friends, etc.?” and “Do you often miss what you would consider important events because you had to, instead, do homework?” 79% said no, they do not get enough personal time, and 90% said they missed events. A vast majority of students are missing important moments and don’t even have time to spend with their family or relaxing because of the tedious time consumption being assigned. This nearly brought me to tears, as America tends to boast how we have school available for everyone…. Sure it’s available, but at what costs? 75% of students polled say they have cried from the stress upon them.  Does this seem like a healthy mindset we should be thankful for? According to an article by Allen Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents. What is startling about Hansen and Lang’s study is that they found that the rates of suicide increase during the school year but dramatically decrease during summer vacation and holidays such as Christmas and Spring break.” This is no coincidence.

To most teachers the goal is to receive good test scores, to prove they have done their job in the respect that students have learned their material, and that is understandable. The goal is knowledge, and knowledge is tested in the form of homework and tests, but is often lacking in the “teaching” aspect. The majority of the time, if you go to an authority complaining about lack of understanding or lack of explanation, the student is put at fault. Rarely is it acknowledged that perhaps the teacher is incompetent. As students we are encouraged to get tutoring, move to a class that’s easier, or just told that their previous education had gaps. I never hear of anyone mentioning that it might be the fault of a teacher teaching inadequately. I attempted to learn more about this problem, but found next to nothing.Whether it is because reports from students are deemed untrue, students are blamed for lack of understanding (when they weren’t properly taught), or perhaps simply because the school board doesn’t want to have to go through the effort of finding and screening a new, better, teacher, it is swept under the carpet. Then untrained students are forced to teach themselves what their trained teacher was supposed to do, but failed at.

Much of my limited understanding of subjects has come from my own process of studying and teaching myself, as I understood nothing in the class and was told to force myself into understanding by looking over the explanation again and again, hoping it will click, whether it be a math equation or a grammatical tool or a historic event. Repetition has been labeled the key to retain information, but the way memorization is viewed is flawed. The way we are taught and tested revolves around short term memory rather than long term. One of most effective ways to study and recall information is through the “spaced repetition” method.* Sadly this doesn’t quite fit the “do a chapter, do a test” model of most classes. That is how to retain information long term, so if we are not being taught in a way we will retain it long term, we must not need it long term, and if we don’t need it, why force it on us?

High school is that last step of monotony before getting to CHOOSE what you study, and learn more about what you’re passionate about. During this time we are expected to be thinking about and deciding what subjects we want to pursue, but how can we even begin to explore our talents and interests if all time is spent on work that depresses you for a class you loathe? It has been made clear to me that the mental health of students is not as important to a school as one might hope. This crucial time of development is spent on useless tasks rather than growing as people, rather than spending time with family and friends or stopping to enjoy what life has to offer. Some look back at their highschool years as the best times of their lives, but from the looks of it right now, I’ll be looking at them as time wasted.

 

*read more about spaced repetition- https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201403/spaced-repetition

*read more about sleep habits and needs in adolescents-

http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/sleep-in-adolescents

 

Sources-

Kassidy Young (2016, December 8) personal interview

Wallace, Kelly. “The Great Homework Debate: Too Much, Too Little, or Busy Work?” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016

Ponte, Wendy J. “Excessive Homework Strains Family Life.” Gale Group. N.p., 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2016

Troyer, Angela K., Ph.D. “Spaced Repetition.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Goldentouch, PhD Lev. “How Many Repetitions for Long Term Retention? – Key to Study.” Key to Study. N.p., 27 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Tutorialspoint.com. “The Rule of Seven.” Www.tutorialspoint.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2016

“Sleep in Adolescents (13-18 Years).” Sleep in Adolescents :: Nationwide Children’s Hospital. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2017

“High School and Teen Suicide, A Connection?” Mental Help High School and Teen Suicide A Connection Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2017

Mitchell, Brendan. “Tag: Homework.” Century 21 Teaching. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2017.

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